Why Liverpool Should Focus On Qualifying For The Champions League, Not Winning The Title

With the Premier League season now past the halfway mark, Liverpool has transitioned from early season surprise to what appears to be a solid squad that finds itself in the thick of the title race.

After sitting in first place on Christmas Day, the Reds dropped down in the table following consecutive losses to Manchester City and Chelsea before rebounding with wins against Hull City and Stoke City. Liverpool currently sits in the all-important fourth-place slot heading into this weekend’s match with Aston Villa.

But while they are only six points off the pace set by league-leaders Arsenal, it may be time for Liverpool to readjust their focus away from claiming the league crown and zero in instead on securing a Champions League slot for next season.

Liverpool is 11 points better than they were after 21 games last season, but they have still struggled against the three teams above them in the table, losing to Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea so far this season. They have fared better against the three teams directly below them, defeating Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, while drawing with Everton.

The Reds squad is also starting to get healthy again, welcoming Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge back to the lineup in the past week. Sturridge’s return is a key to the club’s success, as he is still the team’s second-leading goal scorer despite missing almost two months of action. As the club showed on Sunday against Stoke City, having Sturridge on the pitch with Luis Suarez can be too much for an opposing defense to handle.

But we still can’t shake those results against the top three clubs, games which may have revealed that while Liverpool has improved under second-year manager Brendan Rodgers, they are still not quite ready to make a serious run at the top spot.

Rodgers’ comments after Sunday’s win against Stoke City echo those thoughts:

“We entered the game today, 18 games to go, nine at home, nine away, knowing that seven of those nine were against teams in the bottom half.

“That doesn’t mean they are gimmes by any mean – it is a tough league – but certainly we have shown enough that we are going to be challenging and that is all we ever wanted to be. We never stated we are going to win the league, to jump from where we have been at, we just needed to be in the conversation.”

In addition to having seven games against teams currently in the bottom half of the table, Liverpool has only one road match – at Manchester United – among their games against the other top six clubs. Everyone else had to make the trip to Anfield, where Liverpool has only lost once and has outscored the opposition 27-6.

Rodgers comes across as very pragmatic; he knows his team is good, but it’s just not that good – yet. With a full lineup, Liverpool can match up with any team in the league offensively, although their defense still needs some work.

While you obviously play to win the game, Liverpool probably doesn’t have the talent to make a serious push for the top spot over the season’s final games. And no matter how hard they try, it may not be enough with three teams ahead of them.

In addition, there is not that large of a gap between Liverpool and the teams trailing them – Everton is just one point back, Spurs are just two and Manchester United is five behind. And no matter how much David Moyes’ team is struggling, is anyone really comfortable writing off Manchester United until the very end?

For now, focusing on that Champions League spot may be the best course of action and, if one or two of the teams ahead of them slip up and the Reds can move up a spot, then that’s a bonus. But they have to be careful not to slip up themselves.

The disappointment of going another year without a league title would certainly be softened by the money a Champions League spot would bring, money that could help the club add to what is becoming a talented core group of players.

And if they do that, then next year could be the season that Liverpool becomes more than just a talking point in the conversation about the league title.

Editor’s note: For the latest Liverpool news, analysis and opinion, visit the Liverpool team page.

22 thoughts on “Why Liverpool Should Focus On Qualifying For The Champions League, Not Winning The Title”

  1. I dont see the difference: focus on accumulating as many points as you can.

    If thats enough to win the League, great. If its enough for a Champions League spot, still good enough.

    1. Yeah, I was just about to write something similar. Award for the stupidest headline and article of the week goes to this.

      A teams main focus should always be to win every match, they add the points up at the end of the season and see where it leaves them… whether than be in the top spot or in the CL places.

      Going from the title of this piece, should they focus on only winning enough matches to secure 4th place and then not turn up for the rest because they’re not supposed to focus on winning the league – even through they’re still with the rest of the pack?


    2. I agree. This is a redundant article. If Liverpool win the league, they qualify. I could see the difference if the article was focusing on the Champions League instead of the FA Cup etc, but these goals are one of the same.

  2. Keep the pedal to the metal. I’m not a fan of teams playing for fourth, especially the type of form Liverpool is in. If you play for fourth you end up like the Spurs, in the Europa League.

  3. The one point about having the top six come to Anfield this half is true and I disagree about them struggling against the top teams. They struggled against Arsenal but should’ve beaten City and gave Chelsea a fight. If it wasnt for Mignolets’ mistakes they could’ve gotten results from both. They lost those games sure but I wouldn’t say they struggled.

  4. Winning the title would qualify them for the Champions League… so would finishin 2,3,4. I don’t really understand that rationale for this piece.

    W/R/T form against top teams, so what? A win is worth 3 points regardless of the opponent’s position in the table. I remember a United team winning the title and going something like 2wins 2draws 4losses against the rest of the top 5, probably 2009 or so.

  5. Yikes, tough room!

    The point I was trying to make is I don’t think Liverpool is good enough this year to finish first (or probably even second). If that is the case, they need to make sure they finish no worse than fourth.

    If they can’t beat the three teams in front of them, they need to make sure they don’t drop points in winnable matches, thereby losing points that they are going to need.

    Obviously winning solves everything, and winning the league would be perfect. But they have to make sure that if they miss out on the top spot they can still earn enough points to finish top four and not walk away with nothing from this season.

    1. But they’re going to go out of their way to try and finish first – whether that means they end up finishing 2nd, 3rd or 4th they’re still going to play to win the league!

      Who knows if they can’t beat the 3 teams ahead of them? City and Chelsea are 2 of the hardest away matches in the league for any team and to be honest Liverpool more than held their own at City especially. If I was a betting man, I’d be licking my lips at all of the main rivals having to go to Anfield for the return legs (bar United of course). Anfield is no easy place to go, especially not with the most lethal striker in the league in full swing.

      I believe they’ll make up some ground by having home advantage during the run-in anyway.

      As Brendan Rodgers has maintained all along – he wants the club to be in the conversation and so far he’s doing a mighty fine job at it! I don’t think anybody expects them to win the league this season but now they’re still up there in January, they may as well give it a shot!

      To quote the last part from you: “Obviously winning solves everything, and winning the league would be perfect. But they have to make sure that if they miss out on the top spot they can still earn enough points to finish top four and not walk away with nothing from this season.”– If they miss out on the top spot, they will have earned enough points to finish in the CL spots anyway. I can’t figure out where you’re coming from at all on this :-/

      For what it’s worth, my prediction for where they’ll finish is a toss-up between 3rd and 4th… but in this league, who knows.

        1. If you’re going to attempt banter, at least make it relevant. Must be a Man Utd fan so think it’s the done thing to say things like that yeah?

    2. Load of tosh! You play each game to win and accumulate as many points as you can. If that’s good enough for first, second, third or fourth you’ll find out in May.

  6. Tmoore why would you think we can’t beat those teams? We did not play any of those 3 with both Suarez and Sturridge on the field. Even with that being the case if we took all chances that were presented to us in those three games or got certain calls our way we could very much be at the top of the table. My point is Liverpool can, and most probably will beat those teams with both our strikers present AT ANFIELD. We just need to focus on getting maximum points and hope that each team above us take 3 points off each other.

  7. Liverpool have two of the top scorers in the EPL, with one of them, as of right now, looking to easily obliterate the goal scoring record. I’m not certain how being six points back on first going most of the season without both top scorers is a sign that the team isn’t good enough to win it all.

    1. because their defense is a wreck. A total unsetteled back line and we are 20 matches into the season. Suarez is fantastic, but at best it will be good enough for a 4th place finish.

  8. I don’t think anyone at Liverpool is concentrating on winning the title. The players and manager have spoken about making the Champions League.

    Because of the way this season has gone any one of up to 6 teams could win the title. Liverpool are among the 6. Liverpool will be concentrating on winning each game and seeing where they are at the end of the season. Whether they finish 1st or 4th is not going to be important to Liverpool but they do know that if they continue to get the results they could be in with a chance of winning the title. Lots to play for yet so no one knows how it will all end up.

  9. How do you focus on finishing fourth but not first. Do you throw games so you don’t get too many points?
    Liverpool are capable of beating any team in the league, as are about 6 other teams, so it is simply a case of preparing for each match and gaining as many points as possible and seeing where that ends up taking you.

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